Ebola kills two doctors as death toll rises to 21

[Uganda] Ebola ward in Uganda.
Treating Ebola patients during a past outbreak in Uganda (WHO)

Two Ugandan doctors who had been helping in the fight against an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus have died, bringing the death toll to 21, officials said on 5 December.

"The sad news today is that our doctor who was admitted to Mulago Hospital [in the capital, Kampala] died last night and a senior clinical officer who had been in a critical condition also died this morning," said Samuel Kazinga, resident district commissioner for Bundibugyo, the epicentre of the outbreak.

The doctor who died at Mulago had come from Bundibugyo to the city to collect one of his children, only to fall sick, and had been put in an isolation ward at the hospital, the largest in the country.

Some health officials have said a lack of appropriate equipment in Mulago and other hospitals allowed the virus to spread, but the government announced on 4 December that it had sent 400 packages of protective gear to the affected region to help ensure medical workers were adequately protected.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has announced its intervention in the outbreak, including offering funds for the medical workers working in isolation centres.

Keith McKenzie, the UNICEF representative in Uganda, told reporters on 5 December the priority was "to ensure safety of the community and the health workers supporting them”, before announcing other forms of interventions, including tents, plastic sheeting, drums of chlorine and emergency health kits for 1,000 persons for three months.

Eight pathogen specialists from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control arrived in Uganda on 4 December to help battle the disease that has infected at least 64 people. Five of the experts left Kampala for Bundibugyo on 5 December.

Efforts to isolate suspected patients in Bundibugyo, a rural district neighbouring the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), have failed as many residents fear hospitals are unsafe, authorities have said.

The rare disease, named after a small DRC river, killed at least 170 people in northern Uganda in 2000, with specialists blaming poor sanitation and hygiene.

It was first discovered in the DRC in 1976, but other outbreaks have been recorded in Ivory Coast and Gabon.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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